MODESTO — Tylor Crippen's girlfriend told a detective she was scared when the couple spotted suspicious people at an east Modesto park, moments before Crippen was stabbed to death. She said her boyfriend told her not to be scared and held her hand tightly as they continued walking that January night.
Modesto police Detective Ra Pouv testified Tuesday in a preliminary hearing that Crippen's girlfriend said the pair walked around Creekwood Park until they stopped near the southwest corner of the Ardia Avenue and Creekwood Drive intersection.
"They were holding hands, facing each other, talking to each other," Pouv said.
All of a sudden, three people approached them from behind, she said; one had long hair and asked the couple for a cigarette. When they told him they didn't have cigarettes, she said the long-haired person punched Crippen in the back, according to Pouv.
Crippen ran across the street trying to escape his attackers as the two others chased him while the long-haired assailant brandished a knife, holding the blade close to Crippen's girlfriend, Pouv said.
The detective testified that the long-haired assailant told Crippen's girlfriend, "Give me what you got, b----." Pouv said the girl felt as if she couldn't move because she thought he "was going to kill her."
He demanded that Crippen's girlfriend lift her shirt to make sure she didn't have anything to steal, and she complied. As Crippen ran from his attackers in a zigzag motion, he yelled at the robbers to leave his girlfriend alone, according to the detective.
Crippen's girlfriend told Pouv the two others continued to chase her boyfriend into the park, yelling threats, the detective said, and the long-haired person joined the chase, telling Crippen's girlfriend to stay where she was.
She said she saw a car driving nearby and ran into the street, yelling at the driver to stop. "Unfortunately, the vehicle went around her and drove away," Pouv testified.
She tried a few nearby homes before she found one with lights indicating someone was home. A woman inside opened the door for Crippen's girlfriend and called 911.
The detective's testimony was given in a preliminary hearing for Taylor Koplen, Jacob Segura and Juan Garcia, who are charged with murder in Crippen's death. The defendants are accused of trying to rob Crippen, 18, at the park about 8:30 p.m. Jan. 29 before he was stabbed.
Pouv testified that Koplen had long hair and the other defendants had short hair when they were arrested hours after the attack on Crippen. The detective said he has learned that the defendants decided to rob Crippen and his girlfriend when they first spotted the couple walking east on Mechalys Way before they turned north on Creekwood toward Ardia.
It was while walking along Mechalys that Crippen's girlfriend first became scared about the three people they spotted in the park, Pouv said.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing is expected to continue today in Stanislaus County Superior Court. At the conclusion, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial.